What future for Wikileaks?

The high profile debate around the activities of Wikileaks has raised serious questions about governments and the internet itself.

Evgeny Morozov is the author of Net Delusion: how not to liberate the world.   He spoke at the RSA in London during a lunchtime session facilitated by Charlie Beckett, the Director of POLIS.   

Evgeny has been a long time observer of Wikileaks and in his presentation he outlined his views on how he thinks Wikileaks should develop and position itself.  Founded in 2005, Wikileaks has evolved rapidly in a short time.   It provides secure technology to potential leakers (although some leakers do actually make their activities public).  It has also created a network of journalists, organisations and NGOs that are best suited to receive and analyse the information.  This is their value add.    

Obviously the events around the leaking of the cables have highlighted the issue of government secrecy and transparency.  They have also raised big questions about how internet architecture works.  Wikileaks was cyberattacked in the US and some large companies (although not Facebook or Twitter) withdrew services from the organisation.   Supporters of Wikileaks in turn cyberattacked some large organisations, including Amazon and Mastercard.   The web is becoming politicised.  The Pirate Party political movement, which started in Sweden in 2006, has spread to over 40 countries and aims to be 'the political movement for the digital age'.

Net Delusion argues that it is naive to consider the internet as 'all good'.   The simple highlighting of issues does not in itself make a difference and the internet is as available to corrupt regimes to use as it is to those who oppose them.  Indeed, authoritarian regimes may claim the internet has more power that it really does in order to control and suppress elements within it.   

If Wikileaks is to increase its influence, he believes it should evolve itself into an NGO.  It could begin to provide analysis of the data and information that passes through it.   This is what he calls pursuing 'a cyber realist agenda'.  The downside for the organisation is that it will involve some mainstreaming and life may simply become less exciting for the people of Wikileaks. 

We are in an era of new models of news creation and distribution, from citizen journalists and paywalls to Twitterfeeds and mobile access.   As he is currently writing a book about Wikileaks, Charlie Beckett considers the organisation to be ‘golddust'.  Its activities  and high profile have helped elevate the subject of the media to the front pages and this packed-out event was another example of it.   Wikileaks currently has 670,000 followers on Twitter and over 1.5 million 'fans' on Facebook.

The RSA hosts an ambitious series of events throughout the year.  This talk by Evgeny, like many others, was available to listen to as a live podcast.  Further information about the RSA events is available here.

Image courtesy of www.CGPGrey.com via Flickr.